Bone surgeons are the most sexist in the NHS, according to a confidential poll which suggests discrimination against female staff is rife.
Results of an online survey found more than half of female surgeons in the UK have experienced or witnessed workplace abuse, with those working in orthopaedics most likely to have suffered.
The specialism, concerned with treating conditions of the musculoskeletal system, has long had a reputation within medicine as physically demanding due to the nature of the operations involved.
However, new techniques and technologies are reducing the strength requirements of clinicians, experts have said.
Published in the British Medical Journal, the poll found that 43 per cent of women respondents reported sexism while working in orthopaedics, the highest of any specialism.
Meanwhile 13 per cent reported sexism in cardiothoracic surgery, and 12 per cent in general surgery.
Despite women making up half of medical school entrants, less than a third opt to become surgeons.
The new survey was sent to members of the Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland Facebook group, and was posted on Twitter for two weeks.
The majority – 88 per cent – of the 81 respondents felt surgery remained male-dominated and six out of ten reported they had experienced or witnessed discrimination against women in the workplace.
One in five described a “tangible glass ceiling” for female surgeons and an overriding feeling that the working culture is geared towards men.
The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said there has been a “slow but steady” increase in the number of women choosing to enter the profession.
Professor Farah Bhatti, a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon and RCS council member, said: “Discrimination of any kind is unacceptable and it is disappointing to hear the women in this small survey highlight the challenges they have faced.”
He added: “Whilst it is important to understand the types of challenges faced by women, and to address any systemic issues, there has probably never been a better time to pursue a career in surgery.
“There is no fundamental reason why women cannot succeed in surgery and there are many great role-models.”
The BMJ study follows longstanding accusations of a bullying culture within the surgical profession.
In 2017 the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, which also represents members across the UK, said a “visceral” atmosphere among younger surgeons was directly leading to patient harm.